Health Informatics Program Makes Career Change Easy for 20-Year IT Veteran

health informatics online university student David Klaversma

March 25–31, 2012, is the 23rd annual Health Information Professionals (HIP) Week. Throughout the week, WGU Connection will post about health informatics and WGU’s online B.S. in Health Informatics students and graduates.

For almost 20 years, David Klaversma, of Parker, Colorado, was working for an email service provider, doing systems work with an associate’s degree in computer science he had earned in the 1980s.

But a decade or so ago, when the tech bubble started to burst, "it got a little ugly," David said.

The company started cutting staff. Then, the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and the ensuing economic crash hit.

After David left that job, he found work where he could: He installed soft-foam play areas in shopping malls, managed retail stores, and managed homeowners associations for a while. But none of these jobs was the career he wanted, and he wasn’t doing what he loved.

"My wife and I were in a position where we just decided, ‘Go back to school! Find what you want to do,’" he said.

He began looking at a biotechnology degree at a local state college, "but it was an on-campus program, it would have taken a long time, and it was really expensive."

So he kept looking, and he stumbled across the health informatics field.

"Immediately it became apparent to me that with my interest in science and my interest in medicine, coupled with my years in IT and IS, this would be a great fit for me," David said.

As his research continued, he found yet another perfect fit: "an online program where I could set my own pace." It was called Western Governors University, and it had an online health informatics bachelor’s degree that seemed to be just what he was looking for.

"What drew me to WGU was the cost," David said. "Every other school that I investigated, there was a per-credit rate that you paid. WGU was the only school that had the business model where you pay a flat rate per semester and pack in as many credits as you can."

It still looked too good to be true—but it was at least worth a look.

"I got in touch with the folks at WGU. I wondered what the catch was, to be honest. But it became obvious that this would be a really good fit for me," he said. “I enrolled. I plunged ahead immediately—as soon as I got through my transcript evaluation, as soon as I could start, I just jumped in and ran with it."

And how has he liked it?

"I have been impressed since Day 1 with the tools and the support that this school has," he said. “I brag about it to everybody."

David is shooting to finish his program this summer and walk in WGU’s July 2012 commencement. He will have completed his program in three years. "That was important to me, to finish this and move on. I’m not a normal college-age kid."

But for David, more important than the affordability, flexibility, and speed of his program has been the top-notch education he’s picked up along the way.

"The curriculum has been fantastic," he said. “I have found it really amazing. I work as a volunteer a couple mornings a week at a hospital here in Denver in the HIM (Health Information Management) department, and what I find is that because of the education I’ve gotten from WGU I can sit and speak to the clinician and speak their language. I know what they’re saying.

"That is a direct result of the breadth of education we get in this health informatics program."

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